Updated: May 30, 2020 6:00:48 am
The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday directed the state government to reinstate Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar as the State election Commissioner (SEC). He had been dismissed by the government on April 10 after he postponed the local body elections that were scheduled to be held on March 25.
The court also struck down the government’s appointment of retired judge V Kangaraj as the SEC in the same order.
On March 15, Kumar had cited the coronavirus situation and the need to take safety measures and postponed the elections indefinitely, resulting in a showdown with the government. The state government then brought an ordinance under Article 213 and removed Kumar ,who challenged the move in the High Court.
After Kumar had postponed the elections, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had said that the Election Commission did not consult anyone in the government before taking the decision and accused Kumar of pushing back the elections at the bidding of former chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu. Kumar had been appointed as SEC during Naidu’s tenure in April 2016.
In the run up to the local body elections in March, Kumar had also ordered the transfers of the District Collectors of Guntur and Chittoor, and suspended the Circle Inspector of Macharla Town Police Station in Guntur. He had issued the policeman’s suspension orders after two TDP leaders who were on their way to file nominations for the local boy polls were attacked on March 11 in Macharla. The attack was allegedly carried out by workers of the ruling YRSCP — the party has denied the charges.
The Collectors of Guntur and Chittoor had also been transferred over reports of several such attacks in their jurisdictions.
Another flashpoint between the government and Kumar was his order to collectors to stop all activity related to a survey of land to be distributed to eligible beneficiaries.
On April 10, the state government issued an ordinance modifying the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 to change the tenure, eligibility and appointment of the SEC. The ordinance reduced the term of the SEC to three years, using which, the government dismissed Kumar and appointed Kangaraj in his place.
Friday’s order is the second major setback for the AP government. Last week, the state’s High Court had directed the government to reinstate former intelligence chief A B Venkateshwara Rao, who was suspended on allegations of corruption.
Rao had been suspended on February 8 over allegations of his involvement in irregularities in the purchase of surveillance equipment from a Israeli company and awarding the contract to Akasam Advanced System Company which is owned by Rao’s son.
In Venkateshwara Rao’s case, the report about the alleged irregularities was submitted by the state’s Director General of Police, Goutam Sawang, following which, the state government had suspended Rao and charged him with misconduct.
Rao, a senior police officer of 1989 batch, challenged the suspension at the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) which dismissed the petition and asked the government to investigate and file a case against Rao.
Rao had then approached the high court .
Observing that the state government did not file any chargesheet against Rao, the HC dismissed the suspension and directed to court to reinstate him. However, it stated that the government can investigate the charges against the officer.
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